Archived Story

How do you solve a problem like Councilman McLemore?

Published 12:07pm Saturday, April 13, 2013

When I was young, one of my favorite movies was “The Sound of Music.” My great-grandmother had been on a trip overseas a few years before I was born and actually witnessed them filming part of the movie. I always thought that was pretty cool, and so as a kid whenever the movie came on TV we would watch it. For those that haven’t seen it, the movie is based on a true story about an aspiring young nun named Maria who takes a job as governess to several children whose mother has died and whose father is a captain in the Austrian army during Hitler’s rise to power. The children can sing and dance, and their musical act helps them escape Austria as Hitler is preparing to invade his European neighbors.

In the movie, there’s a particular scene where the nuns at her convent are lamenting what to do with Maria, who’s free spirit and headstrong ways often cause her to run afoul of the convent’s rules. The movie is a musical, so of course the nuns break out into an impromptu song called “How do you solve a problem like Maria.”

This week, I watched a video recording of Monday night’s Franklin City Council meeting. I watched it a couple of times, in fact. And whenever I came to the citizen’s time portion of the meeting, I sat in pure amazement at what I was witnessing. City councilman Greg McLemore’ histrionics and grandstanding are nothing new to observers of city council. Rarely has his behavior led to productive debate regarding city business or had a positive outcome for the constituents he claims to represent. And, generally speaking, his oftentimes ridiculous outbursts and flagrant ignorance regarding the rules of decorum rarely serve to do anything but make a spectacle of himself and frustrate and embarrass his council colleagues.

This time, however, McLemore’s behavior sank to a level below even his own low standards.

As the director of the Western Tidewater Free Clinic, Texie Camp Marks, was called to the podium to give a presentation on the clinic’s request for city funding, McLemore interrupted her, saying she was not a city resident and had no right to speak during citizen’s time. As Ms. Marks stood in disbelief, Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn asked the councilman to refrain from commenting per council rules. Of course, he only became more agitated. When the mayor reminded him that Ms. Marks had every right to speak having signed up to be on the agenda, McLemore essentially flailed around in his chair and told the mayor she was going to do whatever she wanted anyway. Ms. Marks and Ms. Johnson-Ashburn somehow maintained their composure, and Ms. Marks finished her presentation. Mr. McLemore stormed out of the meeting.

As I have replayed this incident over and over in my mind this week, I came to the realization that if Franklin city council meetings were to be conducted as a musical, I could imagine council members breaking into song and singing, “How do you solve a problem like Councilman McLemore?”

Former mayor Jim Councill, who is nothing if not a gentleman, was widely and unfairly criticized during and after his last term in office for failing to run an orderly council meeting and for his perceived inability to control McLemore’s outbursts. And for the first several months of Johnson-Ashburn’s time at the helm of city council meetings she has been largely credited for returning orderliness to meetings that had become circuslike and for keeping McLemore’s behavior under control. But she probably didn’t deserve so much credit any more than Councill deserved criticism, because as anyone who watched this last meeting can attest to, it is incredibly difficult to run a productive council meeting when one individual is hell-bent on creating a disturbance.

One is only left to wonder what in the world Councilman McLemore thinks he is accomplishing by not only making a fool of himself and embarrassing his fellow council members, but by humiliating a respected individual who had every right in the world to rise and address members of council. His behavior does nothing to help city council execute its business at hand. It continues to cast Franklin in a bad light to outside observers. And I hope by now the constituents of his ward have come to realize that the foolishness prevents him from being able to effectively represent their best interests.

So how do you solve a problem like Councilman McLemore? Well, since he managed to kill the city charter amendment that would have allowed city residents to remove him from office in a recall vote, it will have to be solved when his council seat next comes up for reelection.

In the meantime, one can only hope that after he apologizes to those he embarrassed in his most recent outburst, he decides to conduct himself in a way befitting of not only a member of city council, but civilized society as well.

I, for one, won’t be holding my breath.

TONY CLARK is the associate publisher of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.

  • handkusp45

    I agree with you that McNomore makes a laughing stock of city council. The way he behaves is disgraceful. But my question is why would he attack the representative from the Western Tidewater Free Clinic? This clinic provides medical and dental services to people from Franklin. So if McNomore had been successful in stopping funding to them he would have been doing great harm to his constitiuents. Look, People, it is time to get rid of this idiot. He is like Nobama, he tells you all the good he is doing while he is at the same time destroying us.

    Suggest Removal

    • Greg McLemore

      Name calling is o.k. when you do it because you are only expressing your feelings right? Or are you a case of the pot calling the kettle black lol?

      Suggest Removal

  • charlie

    one more thing as far as using the term “you people” it is a term that tony clock uses quite often, referring to blacks but he is not i nor i he . you do have my apologies::)

    Suggest Removal

    • mrgoodbar23829

      I don’t think he ever used ” you people.”

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  • charlie

    poor choice of words my apologies, when talk to some of the people with high utilities, they feel alone like the city is just out to drain, them they need help not to be judged

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  • chilimac72

    “you people shut them down” My friend, this would be considered racial stereotyping. You would be offended if a white person did it, please do not do it.

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  • wonderyears

    What does him being black have to do with him being RUDE at the meeting??? NOTHING!!!

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  • charlie

    As I see it, Councilman McLemore is not the problem, any time a black person speaks up you people shut them down , you are not in these people homes, so you don’t know but you are so quick to judge.:( The problem as I see it is that you have other blacks on council afraid to speak up and they will be VOTED OUT .:)

    Suggest Removal

    • curious

      Well he certainly is not the solution either.

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    • simplifyingit

      By “you people” i am assuming you mean intelligent, sensible, cool headed adults because Mac Mac is none of those things.

      If he is how you want to be represented then you also need a lesson in civility.

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      • Greg McLemore

        Many slave holder were very eloquent and excelled in civility, If you consider control of other humans because of their skin color for your profit civil. I’ll be glad when your version of civility ceases being taught

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    • employee2

      Nobody is in ANYONE’s home. That is why there are water and electric meters. The meters measure what a customer uses whether they “feel” that they used it or not. Does anyone go to the local gas station, squeeze the nozzle until it shuts off with their eyes closed, and then go in argue about how much they used?

      Suggest Removal

  • kingradman

    are you kidding me? this guy acted like that? and he is on the council?? The council in Frankin, thay cant do anything? Unbeliveable he gets away with this

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    • Greg McLemore

      With all due respect he is kidding you because, He is distorting the incident as well as the facts. This writer is the under study of his boss that hates me for questioning his manhood. So typical of foxwater news , to continue to influence popular opinion with the distortion of facts and reality. For the record, what occurred was a legislative challenge to the Mayors deviation from policy in allowing the fine lady to make her request out of turn, when there was an assigned time between 5:30pm and 7:00pm to make such request. In my opinion the time to address a violation of rules or protocol is while the offense is being committed not afterwards. Also for the record I support the fine lady’s cause but not her being able to be treated any different then the other groups that came properly to Council to make their request

      Suggest Removal

  • wonderyears

    Fially a writer who’s not afraid to tell the truth. He’s been a NUISANCE in this community long enough. His ward deserves better. VOTE him OUT.

    Suggest Removal

  • simplifyingit

    have a meeting in his ward…serve free food and beer and make sure he is not invited. Slip him info about this meeting late on the day of the meeting and tell him the cost of the food and beer will come out of his councilman pay. He will barge in and try to shut down the freebies and his “CONstituents” will lynch mob him.

    That is how you solve a problem like Goldie

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    • Greg McLemore

      I think you should consider condensing your screen name to just simple. Free food, beer, don’t invite certain people and talk of a lynch mob, sounds to me like you’re more fimiluer with a Klan meeting than a ward meeting, just saying. lol.

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  • 2fishy

    he should be fined and made to apologize publicly to ms.marks

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    • Greg McLemore

      When the day comes that your elected officials are fined for speaking their minds regarding violation of policy or procedure is the day that free speech should be stricken from the constitution and elections abolished. Eloquence is not always an option when battling oppression.

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  • spider68

    And rest assured. Ward 3 voters can’t wait to get rid of this embarassment.

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    • Greg McLemore

      When I think of a spider, I think of a creepy crawling insect that should be studied or squashed. You ever consider that I am embarrassed to represent some of my constituents’. Then maybe you’re too poor to move out of Ward 3, and really desire to live on the north side of the City, just saying

      Suggest Removal

  • employee2

    Maybe a council rule can be passed to fine members for wrong behavior. It can be deducted from their council pay.

    Suggest Removal

    • Greg McLemore

      With all due respect, you are unaware of the history or the way the American political system works and was designed to work. You can’t fine an elected official for disagreeing with you even if you consider his opinion or method rude. As much as MANY southerners despise President Abraham Lincoln it might do you good to see the recent film about him to put into prospective of how issues are addressed by and in our government by elected officials regarding decorum and tact. With this and some C-Span you will become more familiar with existing protocol. Decorum ranks way down the list.

      Suggest Removal

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